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Tomahawk wildfire west of Parkland County causing flare-ups, resident concern

Water bombers over Tanya Dirk's property on July 1 in Tomahawk. Courtesy: Tanya Dirk

One of Alberta’s first major wildfires this season is causing flare-ups west of Parkland County due to extreme temperatures.

The Tomahawk fire has sputtered back to life, though it remains contained, joining a number of other blazes burning across the province.

Alberta Wildfire’s Derrick Forsythe said from Friday to Saturday morning there were 33 new wildfires reported across Alberta. There are 48 wildfires in the forest protection area in total.

Forsythe said six of the wildfires are out of control, 17 are being held, 24 are under control and one has been turned over to another group of authorities after Alberta Wildfires provided assistance to get it contained.

Read more: ‘There were embers everywhere’: Security cameras show home nearly lost to Tomahawk wildfire

“The largest fire that is out of control right now is up by Lac La Biche. It’s about 285 hectares,” he said. “If you look out toward Lac La Biche, Slave Lake, Hinton — fire dangers (are) still ranging from high to extreme. We still have extreme fire danger down in the southern Rockies.”

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A picture of flare-up in Tanya Dirk’s backyard in Tomahawk. Courtesy: Tanya Dirk

Flare-ups from the Tomahawk fire, mostly in peat moss, continued to burn within the fire boundary.

“The nature of the fire is it’s burning down in the peat moss which can go down 20-30 feet or even deeper,” Parkland County’s Deputy fire chief Chad Moore explained. “The initial suppression efforts extinguished it at the surface but the heat wave dries out material in the ground and we have smoldering fire that pops up.”

Tanya Dirk has had a flare-up in her backyard for almost four days. Crews, including water bombers on July 1, have been working to extinguish the fire. Dirk said the incident made her nervous.

“The whole summer is going to be nuts. We wake up to thick smoke every day,” she said. “It’s my paradise here. It’s sad to see it burning.”

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The wildfire west of Tomahawk has burned since May 6.

Read more: Military ready to help fight B.C. wildfires as feds promise further response

“Peat could burn over a winter season. We will likely continue to check on the fire — even into next spring we will maintain some level of monitoring,” Moore said.

With extreme heat, Parkland County noted there is potential for extreme fire behaviour.

Residents within the fire boundary and surrounding area are asked to be on alert for flare-ups or fire activity. Those who have a flare-up close to their home are asked to call 911 and tell operators they are in the Tomahawk fire zone.

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